His first visit to the Horn of Africa as president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) comes at a difficult time for the region, which is suffering from the combined effects of conflict and climate change. As the humanitarian situation of millions deteriorates, the ICRC is focused: Over the past three years, the ICRC’s budget for Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia has increased by 32%, with Kenya playing an important role as a regional hub. The world budget grew by 9 percent. This shows a strong commitment to helping vulnerable communities affected by armed conflict in the region, despite the turmoil around the world.
Each country in the Horn of Africa faces its own challenges. The peace process in northern Ethiopia has brought hope to millions of people who have suffered enormous suffering and deprivation for two years of conflict. But humanitarian needs remain huge, especially in remote areas of Tigray, Amhara, Afar and Oromi states. Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict that has escalated in Somalia over the past year, while the country and the entire region are suffering from drought.
Some of the biggest problems cross national borders. Food crises are taking hold in the region’s most vulnerable communities, and the devastating effects of climate change cannot be contained within a single country. Humanitarian efforts to prevent people fleeing violence and climate shocks from crossing national borders and separating families have reached several countries and sometimes continents. For this reason, it is very important for us to continue our close cooperation with the African Union, which is the main actor in solving these problems in the region. I also cannot emphasize enough the importance of the national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies as part of the world’s largest humanitarian network. Without the Somali Red Crescent Society, the Ethiopian Red Cross Society, the Kenyan Red Cross Society and other partners in the global movement, we would not be able to reach those in urgent need.
In these difficult times, the ICRC continues to respect international humanitarian law and uphold the principles of neutrality, providing protection and assistance to people in remote and conflict-affected areas.
The world faces major political and economic challenges that affect humanitarian action as we must deal with rising operational costs, increased competition for funding and, at times, questions about basic humanitarian principles. We count on the continued support of donors in this region, demonstrating the value of neutral and impartial humanitarian action.
I am confident that my visit will send a message that the suffering of people affected by armed conflict and violence in the Horn of Africa will not be forgotten and that we will continue to help meet urgent humanitarian needs.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
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